Wall of Shame – World Refugee Day

The 20th June was designated World Refugee Day. There seems to be more and more of these DAYS & YEARS such as Day of the Child, Woman, Slavery etc. For 24/48 hours the media focuses on whatever the issue is and then it’s all but forgotten again but its better than no focus at all.

I viisted a number of refugee sites and noticed that there was no mention of the Saharawi people (Western Sahara, Sahara Occidental) who have been refugees for the past 27 years in a camp in central Algeria. True the Saharawi are not at this moment facing a crises such as that of the Darfur people, Somali or the Democratic Republic of Congo. (they faced theirs 27 years ago).

Nonetheless it is important not to forget the Western Sahara not least because there are presently 200,000 refugees in the desert camps (many others live in exile in Europe, whilst some remain in the occupied terrority.) but because like Palestine, we should be aware that being a refugee is not necessairly a temporary status AND that in some instances it can last 30 years. Children are born refugees in refugee camps and by virtue of that status they are denied their human rights – right to health care, right to education, right to work, right to live in decent housing.

The refugee camps of the Saharawi are very well organised politically and socially. But education is only available up to primary level. So after 27 years how does a Saharawi child move on from living in the camp? The answer is they dont.

Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic

Western Sahara – Sahara Occidental

The Saharawi are just one group of refugees that have had that status for decades.

The Saharawi are similiar to the Palestinians in many aspects. For example their land has been occupied for over 30 years and both have been refugees for over 25 years. The Moroccan government like Israel has built a wall dividing occupied Western Sahara with that controlled by the Polisario (The armed struggle).

“It is made of earth, rock and sand, reinforced with soldiers, anti-personnel and anti-tank mines, trenches and radar detectors. Also known as berm; the sand wall, with bunkers and fences is three metres high with regularly spaced garrisons, manned by Moroccan troops, barbed wire and several million landmines. The wall holds the biggest concentration of landmines in Western Sahara.”

Like the Palestinians who were betrayed by the Briitsh the Saharawi were betrayed by the Spanish. Like the Israelis the Moroccans have ignored all UN resolutions on the Saharawi.

A final interesting point which says it all is that King Hassan II built the wall on the advice of Ariel Sharon and with financing by Saudi Arabia